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A to Z: Rotavirus

Rotavirus is a highly contagious virus that can cause severe, frequent diarrhea, especially in young kids. Most children who haven't been vaccinated will get a rotavirus infection by the time they're 5 years old.

More to Know

In the United States, rotavirus infection outbreaks are common during the winter and spring months. Outbreaks are particularly problematic in childcare centers and children's hospitals because the infection spreads so easily.

Rotavirus symptoms can last from 3-8 days and include fever, nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and frequent, watery diarrhea. A cough and runny nose may also occur. Some rotavirus infections cause few or no symptoms at all, especially in adults.

The diarrhea from a rotavirus infection can be so severe that it quickly leads to dehydration, especially in infants and young children. If dehydration is severe, intravenous (IV) fluids given in the hospital can bring the body's fluid and salt levels back to normal.

Keep in Mind

Most rotavirus infections can be successfully treated at home by giving a child extra fluids, especially those with water and minerals. Avoid overly sugary beverages (like pure juice or soda) as sugar can make diarrhea worse.

Frequent hand washing can prevent rotavirus infections from spreading. A rotavirus vaccine is now included in the lineup of recommended routine immunizations given to all infants.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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